Encouraging Beneficial Insects

Encouraging Beneficial Insects to Your Garden (and why you should)

You don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate the importance of having a variety of insects in your garden. 

These bugs do everything from pollinate plants, to help control pests and diseases, to provide food for fish and birds. Many insects are good for the garden in some way, so it’s important to encourage beneficial insects and provide the right habitats to encourage them to stick around.

The right bugs in your garden offer many benefits from pollination, pest control, or as food for native birds.

A lady bug on a white flower.

The benefits of encouraging the right kind of insects 

A growing number of people are turning to natural pest control methods for their homes, recognizing that there are many benefits to encouraging the presence of some kinds of insects, instead of turning to harmful chemicals to get rid of destructive insects.

As a bonus, natural control methods can be less expensive as well as more effective for dealing with such problems compared with using pesticides. It is a really great (and low maintenance way) of keeping the pest population under control.

The right kinds of bugs in the garden are also useful for improving the pollination rate for fruit- and vegetable-producing plants. As any keen gardener knows, attracting bees and other pollinators to a garden is essential for a bountiful harvest! 

Insects also provide food for native birds, fish, and lizards.

How to attract beneficial insects 

Attracting helpful insects to your garden requires providing the right kind of habitats for the bugs you want to attract. 

There are a few things you can do to attract beneficial insects into your garden:

1. Grow the right plants

Attracting the beneficial bugs into the garden by growing their favorite flowering plants. Native plants to your area will be more likely to attract the right kind of insects, rather than pest bugs or non-native insects that prefer exotic species of plants. 

Planting flowers will encourage insects to your garden, and many need nectar and pollen (not just bees!). However, there are some plants that are more likely to attract undesirable insects such as wasps or other predators of beneficial insects

2. Provide them with a water source

Attracting the beneficial bugs into the garden by offering them a ‘bug bath’. Bug bath is somewhat like a birdbath. Just make a shallow container is filled with gravel or stones and just enough water to keep it moist. 

Insects are prone to drowning, so you can add some larger stones to the dish to serve as suitable resting sites. In this way, they will be able to drink the water without becoming immersed in it.

3. Keep your garden organic

Attracting the beneficial bugs into the garden by not using any harmful pesticides. If necessary you may use organic homemade pesticides. 

Organic pest control is a great way to encourage beneficial insects that eat pests like aphids and caterpillars, and once you are attracting the right kinds of beneficial bugs they will take over and you can let nature do its job. 

4. Create the right habitats

Your garden needs to provide the essential habitat requirements for beneficial bugs if you want them to move in permanently. 

Try to provide a multitude of habitat types, and leave some areas of your garden undisturbed so beneficial bugs can overwinter. 

Mulching can also be useful for attracting beneficial bugs, and also for deterring the bad ones. 

People don’t have woodpiles as much as they used to, and this is the perfect habitat for many beneficial bugs. If you don’t have a woodpile you can replicate this type of habitat by creating a ‘bug hotel’ from pieces of dry wood, sticks, straw, or old pots. Cover with a small roof to keep it dry.  

A bug hotel made from straw, pots, pinecones with a roof.
Create a bug hotel.

What insects are beneficial?  

Bees

Bees are wonderful insects, they provide so many services to humans through pollination, and producing honey. Globally, many bee species are in decline, and so it is important that we support them where we can.

However, a healthy community of bees visiting your garden will also mean that your flowers are well pollinated, meaning a more productive vegetable patch, more fruits on your trees, and a healthier garden overall. 

Ladybugs

Ladybugs (or ladybirds, depending on where you are situated) are one of the most helpful kinds of beetle. Their main benefit is natural pest control since they prey on aphids and many other common pests, as well as their eggs.

You may plant flowering weeds and herbs such as dandelions, yarrow, dill, wild carrot, and angelica to attract ladybugs into the garden.

Aphid midges

These beneficial insects devour harmful pests such as aphids. Aphids are a common nuisance in the garden and very destructive to plants. Aphids not only suck out the sap of plants but spread disease as well, so it is best to keep on top of their control.

Hoverfly

This beneficial insect is most powerful in its larvae stage since it can devour around 400 aphids. To attract hoverflies, just plant some flowering weeds, such as yarrow and wild carrot between your garden crops.

Millipedes & Centipedes

As beneficial insects, millipede helps break down organic matter while centipede wipes put all sorts of soil-dwelling pests such as slugs.

Parasitic Wasps

Parasitic wasps as beneficial insects that lay their eggs in the bodies of numerous pests, feeding off of pests and eventually killing them. Some of their victims include tomato hornworms, aphids,  moths, beet armyworms, cabbage worms. You can attract parasitic wasps into the garden with plants such as wild carrot, dill, lemon balm, white clover, and yarrow.

Butterflies

In addition to making your garden more attractive, butterflies act as pollinators. See this post on how to plant a butterfly garden if you would like to attract more of these beautiful creatures to your garden.

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